VIEWPOINT: Lest we forget, 'solid and stable' is good

April 21, 2008

"I moved to Indiana on purpose," I've been telling people since the move from Florida last August. The Indianapolis area attracted me and my business for a number of reasons-reasons which, I'm more convinced each day, Hoosiers take for granted. Someone might want to consider the good that's right in front of our collective noses:

Unlike Florida, whence I emigrated, people here know who can get things done, where businesses are, and whose reputation is good. A state full of transients, with tons of new immigrants, just cannot provide that "home-grown information" that is so readily available here.

The established businesses here are efficient, too. People deal on handshakes; they uphold long-earned reputations.

Traffic is reasonable. Years of a stable population have yielded a good mix of throughways and arteries; and the stable population can give directions, too!

Housing is affordable, and the established neighborhoods hold no surprises for floods and shifting soils, so prevalent in the new-growth developments in popup communities in fast-growing areas.

We do have crime, but Hoosiers have largely learned to live peacefully with their differences. Among big cities, Indianapolis has a lot less serious crime than most: Indianapolis isn't even listed in Morgan Quitno Press' worst 25 cities over 75,000 population for crime, where one finds surprises such as Columbus, Ohio; Tucson, Ariz.; and West Palm Beach, Fla.

Indianapolis is in a great place, too. Within a day's hard drive are Kansas City, Kan.; Toronto; Minneapolis; Atlanta; and Washington, D.C. Good ground transportation also means we're on the way to a lot of places. Sure, Indy could pump up its air transportation (and efforts have been made!) and attract hubs (and more businesses); it's just a matter of time and industry wide solvency before some smart passenger airline recognizes the opportunity here. Clearly, FedEx has already grasped the advantage of our location.

In the wreckage of the old industrial giants' pullouts are a lot of opportunities for modern businesses: buildings, rail and especially trained workers who, once the reality of certain union techniques (more popular decades ago) are recognized for what they are, are available to make the next wave of industrial expansion a reality.

Our schools and higher learning are keyed to the community's needs, from Purdue University at the airport and suburbs to Ivy Tech Community College-everywhere. Now, the top business-school ranking of Anderson University is drawing ever-more-qualified students to the area.

Local and state governments have become increasingly business-friendly, after now-retired predecessors tried treating people the other way. What's good for business is good for jobs, for families, and ultimately for incumbents. They keep learning.

Roughly as old as Chicago, Indianapolis has been pretty much the 12th-largest city in the country since before World War II, even as others climbed furiously (Houston) or fell precipitously (Detroit). We just don't get the press because we're not as pushy, perhaps, or as kooky. Indy is the strong, silent type of city. It's nice to live in a place like that.

The size and longevity of Indianapolis have allowed it to build and maintain a rich tradi tion in arts, music, libraries and educational institutions, and architecture. And sports, both professional and "farm," at all levels.

Outside of Indianapolis are a dozen autonomous hubs of industry and learning. Each independent community is still Hoosier, but relatively free to seek its own way; and each has developed its own personality and strength. The corridors are developing as their constituents' needs change. Their relative independence has allowed them to exploit the synergies their geographies afford them, and each has a unique personality.

Nationally, it seems Indiana "don't get no respect," but that's not a problem that seems to bother most Hoosiers. Being the strong, silent type suits them just fine.

Kern is an aviation writer and consultant who teaches economics at Ivy Tech Community College in Anderson.
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